It is very easy to post your public information onto socialnetworking sites. It took me less than five minutes to create andactivate my account and half an hour to populate the data with mybirthday, my home town, my status, my education, and my likes (puppies)and dislikes (chicken balls with red sauce). In another half hour, Iwas able to upload pictures of my Asia trip, my friends and family, andeven my Hello Kitty small kitchen appliance collection.
But, it's not so easy to remove personal information off these sites. In a recent BBC articleit was shown that users on a popular social networking site who, afterterminating their accounts, found it difficult to delete personalinformation. A popular social networking site states that "Deactivationwill completely remove your profile and all associated content on youraccount ... If you reactivate your account, your profile will berestored in its entirety (friends, photos, interests, etc.)." Many donot realize that even though their account has been deactivated, theirpersonal information still resides on the social networking sites'servers. Users are lulled into a false sense of security and equatedeactivating their accounts with complete removal of their personalinformation.
And what about users who want to keep their accounts but want toremove potentially harmful information? I've mentioned to friendsbefore and in a previous blogthat some information they post on their social networking accounts,such as addresses, phone numbers, and pictures of their new house thatshows the layout of the entire property, should be removed sinceunscrupulous people may be able to piece it together to form enoughinformation to be damaging or even criminal. Those bits of deletedinformation "may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period oftime", according to the privacy statement by a popular socialnetworking site.
So the moral of the story is, make sure you read the fine printbefore agreeing to join any Internet network and to understand theprivacy conditions. Once personal information is out there, it's verydifficult to get back.